Archive for January, 2008

Nichia Calls Seoul Semiconductor’s Spin of Infringement Verdict False Advertising

January 30th, 2008

Back in January of 2006, Japanese LED manufacturer Nichia sued Seoul Semiconductor (Seoul) for infringement of four of Nichia’s design patents (design patents differ from ordinary patents in that they protect only the ornamental features or configuration of a device; a design patent generally contains only drawings and minimal written text). The asserted patents included D503,388, and the accused device was Seoul’s 902 series LED, which is used in liquid crystal display (LCD) back light units in consumer products such as cell phones. In November of last year, a jury found that the Seoul device infringed all four design patents and that the infringement was willful.

In the days immediately following the verdict, Seoul put out a series of press releases that stretched the bounds of spin. One was entitled “Seoul Semiconductor Has Substantially Prevailed at U.S. Design Case” and stated: “Seoul Semiconductor vindicated that, after almost two years of litigation, the sales of its side view LED 902 are actually non-infringing and that it has substantially prevailed in this litigation.” Two of the press releases were uploaded to the NEXIS online information service.

Last month Nichia sued Seoul for false advertising and unfair competition in connection with the press releases. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles, asks the court to stop dissemination of the press releases and any other false or misleading statements about the infringement suit or the infringing devices. Nichia also requested that the court order Seoul to put out a corrective press release admitting the prior statements were wrong and that its products are infringing. To prove false advertising, the plaintiff must show that the challenged statement is either literally false or, though literally true, is likely to mislead consumers. It’s hard to imagine the court won’t find Seoul’s statements at least misleading. 

There appears to be no end in sight to the bad blood between these two companies: Nichia has also sued Seoul for defamation in Korea for the false statements, Nichia has brought another patent suit against Seoul in Korea, alleging that Seoul’s Z-Power LED P9 Series white LED products infringe one of Nichia’s Korean patents; and Seoul has sued Nichia in the Eastern District of Texas for infringement of a patent covering a semiconductor layer.

Community Power’s Gasification Technology Attracts Allegro Biodiesel Investment

January 21st, 2008

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Allegro Biodiesel recently acquired a minority stake in Littleton, Colorado bioenergy company Community Power Corporation (CPC).  Allegro is interested in CPC because of its technology for converting biomass to clean energy.

Gasification technology converts carbon-based biomass feedstocks, such as wood chips, to gas or other usable fuel, which can then be used to generate electricity.   CPC has developed a gasification system that can produce heat and power from a wide variety of biomass feedstocks.   CPC’s gasifier is called the BioMax Power System biomax.pdf, and the company has filed a patent application for the technology. 

U.S. Application No. 2007/0006528 covers a modular, portable gasifier that provides better control and monitoring of operations, more effective gas cooling, and less pollution (typically tar) than prior gasifying techniques.  The gasifier eliminates the tar from the raw material by pyrolysis (heating without oxygen or other reagents).   According to CPC’s patent application, a significant innovation is the gasifier’s multi-layer air injection system, which senses temperature at each layer and adjusts the temperature accordingly at each layer to achieve consistently high gas quality and ultra-low tar levels.  The system has multiple nozzles to inject oxidizing gas in the prescribed amounts at different locations to create optimal conditions.  After the tar is released, the remaining carbonaceous material (called char) is ignited and thereby converted to a low tar fuel gas.

More Still on Green Trademarks: A New Tool for Investigating Ecolabels

January 15th, 2008

There’s a new web site that educates consumers about the multitude of “green” labels out there.  The site, ecolabelling.org, provides consumers with a way to investigate a business’s claims of environmental responsibility by facilitating research of “ecolabels,” those certifications and brand names that are used to communicate green business practices.  (read an interview with one of the co-founders here

There are a couple of ways to use the site:  you can search for a particular ecolabel that you see on a product, or you can search by category if, for example, you are looking for ecolabels used in the electronics industry because you want to buy from an environmentally-friendly manufacturer.  The listings tell you whether it’s an industry, government or non-profit organization label, the number of products and companies certified by the label, and whether the labeling standards have been independently verified.

Given the rise of green trademarks and ecolabeling, this web site is a welcome tool for sorting through all of the certifications and labels out there and separating the genuine from the “greenwash.”       

Raser Technologies Joins Forces with FEV in the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Race

January 11th, 2008

Utah vehicle engineering company Raser Technologies recently announced that it has entered into an agreement with international vehicle technology developer FEV in an effort to integrate Raser’s electric motor and electronic drivetrain technology with traditional internal combustion engines.  (read the article here)  The goal of the project is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle having 100 mpg fuel economy.

Raser owns one U.S. patent and several pending patent applications relating to AC induction electric motor systems.  Such systems typically include an electric motor and a “drive” or “controller” to provide an AC waveform to drive the motor.  Many AC motors are made to run from a DC power source with the drive acting as an interface between the two types of electrical energy.  However, complex and inefficient switching devices are necessary for the drive to convert DC power to an AC waveform.   U.S. Patent No. 6,847,186 seeks to solve this problem by eliminating the need for those switching devices. 

A rotary motor has a rotating part, or rotor, and a stationary part called a stator, with an air gap between them.  In an AC system, the stator has coils supplied with AC current to produce a rotating magnetic field to power the rotor.  Raser’s patented system widens the gap between the stator and the rotor, which has the effect of increasing inductance – the ratio of magnetic flux to current (changes in current create changes in magnetic flux, which generate electromotive force).  Thus, the motor itself is transformed into an inductor.  The inductance is connected in series with a capacitor, generating alternating current between the motor and the capacitor.  The result is a resonant circuit formed by the motor (inductor) and the capacitor.  When power is applied, the circuit oscillates and produces AC waveform without the need for complex devices to convert DC to AC.

Morphic’s Recent Acquisitions

January 6th, 2008

Swedish clean energy group Morphic Technologies has made a string of acquisitions recently, gobbling up the Greek energy company Helbio last June, Italian fuel cell maker Arcotronics in November and the Swiss energy storage company AccaGen last month.  Morphic includes a parent company and six subsidiaries engaged in the manufacture of fuel cells and wind turbines and servicing and maintenance of hydroelectric power plants.  The deals provide Morphic with new fuel cell technology and various processes for storing energy from renewable sources. 

The acquisition of Arcotronics provides Morphic with a variety of different fuel cell designs to incorporate into its energy systems.  Most of Arcotronics’ patented technology relates to equipment and techniques for manufacturing batteries and capacitors.  For example, U.S. Patent No. 7,215,532 claims a machine with a rotating frame, a polygonal support structure, spacers and rolls for storing plastic film raw material.  The rotation of the frame winds the film onto the support, creating multiple film layers of uniform shape and thickness.  The spacers are arranged at the first film layer at locations corresponding to the corners of the polygon and serve to maintain the structure of the resulting capacitor.  This technique provides more uniformity among different regions of the wound film, and thus more uniform electrical characteristics, and also permits production of capacitors of different shapes by substituting different support structures.

Helbio’s technology relates to hydrogen production from biofuel raw materials.  Helbio holds one U.S. patent on a method of producing hydrogen from ethanol by oxidation.  U.S. Patent No. 6,605,376 covers a process of mixing ethanol with oxygen in the presence of a catalyst to produce hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide.  The patent also covers a method including the additional steps of fermenting biomass to produce the ethanol starting material and directing the resulting hydrogen gas to a fuel cell.

The AccaGen deal also provides Morphic with hydrogen production capability.  AccaGen makes electrolyzers for separating water into hydrogen and oxygen.